As a psychologist in Pennsylvania, your license is effectively your livelihood. Any threat to your license should be taken seriously and defended against vigorously. Unfortunately, all it may take to jeopardize your license is a single complaint filed against you. Psychologists in PA are held to high ethical, moral, and professional standards. If the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology believes that you violated these standards or compromised the public trust, it has the authority to invoke disciplinary action against you--up to and including revoking your license.
You have worked hard for years to get where you are today. You've dedicated yourself to your education and training, and put in the required time to build a successful practice. If your license is under investigation, you need an experienced Pennsylvania license defense attorney on your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience with cases like yours and has helped many licensed professionals through the disciplinary process with excellent results. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Allegations Could Cost You Your License?
Psychologists can face possible suspension or revocation of their licenses over a wide range of offenses and violations. Below are some of the most common examples:
- Dual relationships. Psychologists should not treat patients with whom they have other relational connections, whether financial, romantic or family, because these relationships could skew their advice. Doing so could be grounds for losing your license.
- Sexual misconduct. This could include sex with patients or colleagues or unwelcome advances towards employees, patients, or coworkers.
- Fraud. Examples include "upcoding" insurance claims for more money, overcharging patients, misrepresenting your credentials, etc.
- Substance abuse. Alcoholism and drug abuse can cast doubt on your ability to provide care for patients and clients and endanger your license.
- Criminal convictions. A psychologist's license can be put in danger if they are convicted of a crime, particularly one involving moral turpitude.
- Violating patient confidentiality. If you share a patient's private information with anyone (unless it involves the discovery of abuse), or if you are careless with a patient's personal information, you could lose your license.
- Failing to report abuse. The one exception to patient confidentiality is when you discover that abuse is taking place against a child, spouse, or elderly person. In these cases, you're legally required to report the incident to authorities. If you don't make a report, you could lose your professional license.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Psychologists in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has a uniform system for filing complaints about licensed professionals and the resulting disciplinary actions. Any member of the public can file a formal complaint with the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) against any licensed professional. In the case of psychologists, the most common complainants are patients, coworkers, other practitioners, and sometimes insurance companies. Once the BPOA receives the complaint, the process moves through the following stages.
After the BPOA has received and reviewed a complaint, an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) will be assigned to investigate it. The BEI investigator will likely interview the complainant and any witnesses, request documents, and conduct other fact-finding activities. You may also be asked to respond in writing to the allegation. The Board of Psychology will reject any complaint that is not supported by the findings of the investigator. If there is sufficient evidence to support the complaint, however, the case can be moved forward.
If the board finds the evidence against you to be convincing, they may attempt to negotiate a consent agreement with you in lieu of a formal hearing. The consent agreement requires that you admit to your wrongdoing and submit to the board's recommendations for disciplinary action. While it's not always the best resolution, a consent agreement may be an acceptable option for you if disciplinary action is inevitable and if the agreement includes a pathway for reinstatement of your license. A good attorney can negotiate for the best possible terms of a consent agreement. We don't recommend signing a consent agreement without the advice of an attorney.
If no consent agreement is offered or signed, the next step is for you to appear at a formal hearing before a state examiner, where you will be asked to show cause why your license should not be revoked. You may have legal representation at the hearing. The hearing's outcome will determine the disciplinary actions recommended to the State Board of Psychology, which could be anything from a formal reprimand to a full revocation of your license.
How a Pennsylvania Psychologist's License Defense Attorney Can Help--and Why You Need One
One thing to remember is that the State Board of Psychology has a duty to protect the public, first and foremost. It takes allegations of misconduct by its licensees very seriously and has broad authority to invoke disciplinary actions based only on a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, you have no guarantee of presumed innocence, and anything you say or do, even in response to the complaint, could be used against you. This puts you at a disadvantage from the moment a complaint is filed.
An experienced professional license defense attorney understands how these cases work and what's at stake for you. The attorney can review the allegations against you and draft an effective written response (which may result in the matter being dropped altogether). They can also identify weaknesses in the evidence against you and develop strategies to counter them. The attorney can negotiate at multiple stages with the board for lenient penalties and/or a dismissal of the complaint. And if a hearing is required, an attorney can work to ensure the best possible outcome.
If you are a psychologist in Pennsylvania who has received notice of a complaint filed against your license, involving an attorney as soon as possible may prevent significant damage to your career. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.